what is happening to the Assyrian reliefs?

2011-12-08, Comments

What a gloomy day! In need of colour I decided to revisit the wildlife photography exhibition in my lunchbreak.

I used to think there must be two wildlife photography exhibitions, they come round so frequently, but now I understand there’s only one; it’s just that it stays on display for so long. It stays popular too, with good reason. I wish they’d print larger versions of the photos though.

The assassin, by Steve Mills

The photos come with the tales of their capture. Here’s how Joe Bunni snapped a polar bear:

After three days on a small boat looking for polar bears in Repulse Bay, Nunavut, Canada, Joe got lucky. ‘We cruised at a distance, so we didn’t disturb the bear. Once we were sure it was relaxed with our presence, I slipped quietly into the water with just a mask and fins, attached to the boat by a rope.’ The polar bear now started to swim towards the boat. It didn’t appear to notice Joe, and for 20 minutes he was able to take photographs from the water. But then the bear caught sight of its own reflection in the dome port and swam up to Joe. ‘It’s amazing when a huge, powerful animal comes beside you.’ It came so close that its nose touched the housing, startling it. The second after Joe took this shot, the bear reached out and touched the dome with its paw. Then it turned and swam away, leaving Joe with an unforgettable image - symbolic ‘of the power and elegance of a wonderful creature struggling to survive in a fast-changing climate’.

Polar Power

Unforgettable indeed! If I were Joe I’d have prioritised my own survival and admired the power and elegance at a distance.

Polar bear skeleton, Bristol Museum

Bristol museum’s own polar bear has disappeared, making way for a new lift which is being installed just beyond the room holding the Assyrian reliefs. The reliefs remain on display — at least, I could see them today — but they’ve been separated, strapped, and mounted on shock absorbers to reduce the risk of damage from vibrations whilst the lift works go on.

what is happening to the Assyrian reliefs?

The assembly of ancient stones and modern fixings looked like a conceptual artwork. I tried to imagine the history of the reliefs, how they’d been quarried, manoeuvred, carved, lifted, shipped — how 8 tons of granite had ended up here in Clifton.